Formerly known as the Grand Ole Opry House and the Union Gospel Tabernacle, the Ryman Auditorium is a historic 2,362-seat live performance venue that has an important place in entertainment history. Located at 116 5th Avenue North in Nashville, the Ryman Auditorium has been a popular place for all types of gatherings from community events and political rallies to turn-of-the-century entertainment including ballets, operas, musical and theatrical productions and symphonies. Fondly known as the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974, the Ryman Auditorium is now a National Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

1.Ryman Auditorium History

Ryman Auditorium History
© Courtesy of Dave Newman -

The Ryman Auditorium was originally built as Union Gospel Tabernacle in 1892 after Steamboat Captain Thomas G. Ryman was inspired by the words of Reverend Sam Jones and vowed to build a great tabernacle that would act as a vessel for his voice. Designed by renowned architect Hugh Cathcart Thompson, the building was constructed in the Victorian Gothic Revival style, which was popular at the time, and went on to become one of the most popular entertainment venues in the country, bringing Tom Ryman's vision to life. The Auditorium played host to an array of entertainment legends, including the Metropolitan Opera, who put on exclusive performances of Carmen and The Barber of Seville, as well asCharlie Chaplin, Harry Houdini, Enrico Caruso, Ignacy Paderewski, and Ethel Barrymore, who all graced the stage. During this time, the Ryman Auditorium became known as the “Carnegie Hall of the South.”

Opry's Live Radio Shows

In 1943 George D. Hay's world-renowned radio show, the Grand Ole Opry® found a home at the Ryman, which served as the stage for the Opry's live radio shows for the next 31 years, showcasing stars like Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, and Marty Robbins. As the home of the Grand Ole Opry, the Ryman Auditorium became inextricably linked to the rise of the modern-day genre of country music and was hailed as “The Mother Church of Country Music,” as well as the birthplace of Bluegrass. Even when the Opry moved to a new location in 1974, the Ryman continued to attract fans from around the world to see and experience the stage that has been graced by so many musical legends.

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2.Interesting Facts

Interesting Facts
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In 1994, the Auditorium underwent a major renovation to restore the landmark to its former glory with the addition of the latest technology in sound, lighting, and engineering, central heat and air conditioning, a 14,000 square foot support building for ticketing, offices, concessions and a gift shop. Today, the Ryman Auditorium is a world-renowned, state-of-the-art performance hall that is hailed for both its striking beauty and phenomenal acoustics and has seen the likes of performers such as Aretha Franklin, Annie Lennox, ZZ Top, and Norah Jones, to name but a few.

The Ryman Auditorium is located at 116 5th Ave North, Nashville and is open for tours and ticket daily from 9:00 am until 4:00 pm. Visitors can explore the Auditorium on self-guided tours or enjoy a guided backstage tour for a nominal fee, as well as cutting your own record or CD in the Ryman's recording studio. Budding musicians can bring an original composition or pick one of the classic songs available and one of the professional sound engineers will record your rendition in the Ryman Auditorium.

Backstage Tours include a guided walk through the dressing rooms of famous Ryman guests such as Hank Williams and Minnie Pearl, standing in the wings where performers like Elvis Presley and James Brown stood waiting for their cue, and exploring the famous “Ryman Alley” where the Everly Brothers were discovered. Backstage Tours are offered on the hour and half past from 9:30 am until 3:30 pm. The Ryman Auditorium can be hired for specific events and functions and offers several venues to cater for every need. The auditorium itself seats 2,362 people, while the Upper Lobby boasts theatre-style seating for 80 guests, seated dinner seating for up to 100 people, or reception space for 125 guests. On stage, 120 guests can be seated for dinner, or 180 for reception-style gatherings and the historic 5th Avenue Vestibule can cater for up to 75 guests in a reception-style arrangement.

The Opry Store offers a wealth of fantastic music and entertainment-related gifts, including clothing, gifts, books, collectibles, décor and ornaments and more. The Ryman Auditorium is also home to the Bluebird Café, a casual café where visitors can enjoy freshly brewed coffee, homemade sandwiches, salads, decadent desserts and hot and cold drinks.

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116 5th Ave North, Nashville, Tennessee 3721, Phone: 615-889-3060

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Things to Do in Nashville, TN: Ryman Auditorium